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Thursday, May 16, 2002

No surprises in store from Troussier

TOKYO (Reuters) - Philippe Troussier will be more than 6,000 miles away when the Japanese FA announce his World Cup squad in Tokyo on Friday, although not to avoid any fallout from the Japanese media.

The Japan coach, who will be in Paris to watch holders France play a World Cup warm-up against Belgium on Saturday, is unlikely to spring any big surprises among his 23-man squad for the finals in Japan and South Korea.

Troussier is used to having his selection policy dissected by the Japanese media but - apart from the addition of Shimizu S-Pulse defender Ryuzo Morioka - the Frenchman is likely to stick with the squad for the friendly with Norway on Tuesday.

Morioka, who captained Japan to their second Asian Cup triumph in Lebanon in 2000, has recovered from a hamstring injury he picked up in preseason training. His return is one of the few bright spots for Troussier after a recent injury crisis.

Troussier is also set to take a gamble on the fitness of former Bolton Wanderers striker Akinori Nishizawa, who was rushed to hospital to have his appendix out before the 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid last week.

'I will choose the squad on the basis of who is fit for our first game against Belgium on June 4, not May 17. Just like England did with (David) Beckham,' Troussier said on Tuesday.

MISS OUT

While Nishizawa faces a race against time to be fit for the Belgium game, Jubilo Iwata striker Naohiro Takahara is likely to miss out on the World Cup after being diagnosed with a lung infection last month.

With Morioka coming in, the only question left for Troussier is which four players to drop from the 26-man squad that played against Real Madrid and Norway.

Yokohama pair Daisuke Oku and Yasuhiro Hato, along with Sendai forward Yo****eru Yama****a, appear the obvious candidates with either Mitsuo Ogasawara (Kashima) or Takashi Fukunishi (Iwata) also in danger of the chop.

Ogasawara, in particular, would be unlucky to miss out, given his range of passing and dead-ball skills.

But Troussier may feel that the World Cup has come a year too early for the 23-year-old, who only made his debut in the 1-0 win over Ukraine in March.

Unless Troussier has a surprise up his sleeve, his public comments over the past two weeks will mean World Cup heart-break for Hiroshi Nanami of Iwata.

The former Venezia midfielder, voted Player of the Tournament at the Asian Cup, has played just a handful of games for Jubilo in his latest comeback from knee surgery.

The best Nanami could hope for is to be named as stand-by in case of injury, although Troussier may prefer to keep Ogasawara or Fukunishi involved in the Japan set-up.

Japan play Belgium, Russia and Tunisia in World Cup Group H, which was regarded as a 'manageable' group by the Japanese media until the 3-0 defeat to Norway in Oslo on Tuesday provided a much-needed dose of perspective.

The co-hosts meet Sweden in their final warm-up match in Tokyo on May 25, six days before the first Asian World Cup kicks off in Seoul.

Possible squad:

Goalkeepers - Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Portsmouth), Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya), Hitoshi Sogahata (Kashima)

Defenders - Ryuzo Morioka (Shimizu), Toshihiro Hattori (Iwata), Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Gamba Osaka), Naoki Matsuda (Yokohama), Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama), Koji Nakata (Kashima)

Midfielders - Hiroaki Morishima (Cerezo Osaka), Hidetoshi Nakata (Parma), Takashi Fukunishi (Iwata), Alessandro Santos (Shimizu), Kazuyuki Toda (Shimizu), Tomokazu Myojin (Kashiwa), Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama), Junichi Inamoto (Arsenal), Shinji Ono (Feyenoord), Daisuke Ichikawa (Shimizu)

Forwards - Takayuki Suzuki (Kashima), Atsushi Yanagisawa (Kashima), Akinori Nishizawa (Cerezo Osaka), Tatsuhiko Kubo
Yokohama to press Real on Nakamura
J-League club Yokohama F-Marinos have sent an official to Spain for talks with Real Madrid over the stalled sale of Japan midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura to the newly-crowned European champions.

Katsunori Nakamura left on Thursday to press Real Madrid to give F-Marinos a definitive answer after negotiations came to a halt recently, the club confirmed.

The two clubs agreed a $3million fee in January that would send Nakamura to Madrid after the World Cup.

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Akita earns Japan call-up after two-year exile

Friday 17th May 2002

Veteran duo Yutaka Akita and Masashi Nakayama were surprise inclusions in Japan coach Philippe Troussier's 23-man squad for the World Cup on Friday.

Akita's call-up came as a particular shock as the 31-year-old central defender has not played for Japan in well over two years, his last appearance coming against Iran in a friendly in September 1999.

The Kashima Antlers star has been selected in the face of growing criticism of Troussier's defence, which has conceded three goals in each of their last two matches.

Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Norway is thought to have been the spur behind Akita's selection, while Nakayama has been brought in to give leadership to a struggling forward line.

The 34-year-old, who scored Japan's only goal at the last World Cup, was last selected by Troussier for the friendly against Italy in November.

Those failing to make the cut include Real Madrid target Shunsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Nanami, winner of the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament award as Japan won the Asian Cup in Lebanon in 2000.

Young midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara was another surprise inclusion ahead of Nakamura. "This final list is the result of the deliberations of me and my staff," said Troussier in a statement. "It is not the least bit shocking.

"This list is composed of players who have character and is the logical conclusion drawn from the past four years. This group is balanced physically, technically and strategically.

"It reflects pride, ambition and talent. This group has a mission and responsibility to fulfil as they represent Japan.

"I fully believe in the players I have chosen and I expect them to do their utmost with confidence and pride.

"The chosen players must maintain a high level of concentration and a sense of mission until the very, very end out of respect for the players who were not chosen."

Eight of the squad that represented Japan at the last World Cup - including Parma's Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono of Feyenoord - have been selected by Troussier.

Japan squad

Goalkeepers: Kawaguchi (Portsmouth, England), Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Sogahata (Kashima Antlers)

Defenders: Akita (Kashima Antlers), Hattori (Jubilo Iwata), Morioka (Shimizu S-Pulse), Miyamoto (Gamba Osaka), aoki Matsuda (Yokohama F Marinos), K Nakata (Kashima Antlers)

Midfielders: Matsuda (Cerezo Osaka), H Nakata (Parma, Italy), Fukunishi (Jubilo Iwata), Santos (Shimizu S-Pulse), Toda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Myojin (Kashiwa Reysol), Inamoto (Arsenal), Ogasawara (Kashima Antlers), Ono (Feyenoord, Holland)

Forwards: Nakayama (Jubilo Iwata), Suzuki (Kashima Antlers), Yanagisawa (Kashima Antlers), Nishizawa (Cerezo Osaka)

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Ono Passed Fit For World Cup Opener
News Archive

Ready for action
05/27/2002. Japan midfielder Shinji Ono has finally been given the all-clear by doctors after complaining of stomach cramps at the weekend.

The Feyenoord midfielder lasted just 56 minutes as his side drew 1-1 with Sweden on Saturday and there were fears that he'd miss the first game against Belgium on June 4.

However, test results have confirmed that Ono will not be struck down with the chest pains and that he may just be suffering from fatigue.

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Great news about Ono:)

I think (hope) Japan will be second in the group after Belgium. Draws against both Belgium and Russia and win against Tunesia.

Good luck to all the people in Japan;)
 

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Thursday, May 30, 2002

Inamoto: Japan can reach semi-finals
Alastair Himmer

MORI, Japan (Reuters) - Co-hosts Japan are good enough to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, midfielder Junichi Inamoton has said.

The 22-year-old warned that Russia would be the biggest threat in Group H but insisted Japan could still surprise a few people during the tournament, which kicks off in Seoul on Friday.

'Russia are probably the strongest team in the group but I think we have the ability to get to the last eight or the last four,' he said. 'Our preparation has been perfect and there is a great atmosphere among the squad.'

Japan play Belgium in their World Cup opener at Saitama stadium on Tuesday but Inamoto raised eyebrows when he sai he had never heard of Belgian captain Marc Wilmots.

'Sorry, I don't know who he is but we know Belgium are a big, physical team,' said Inamoto, who played against Wilmots in one of his rare appearances for English premier league side Arsenal against Schalke 04 in the Champions League last season.

'We won't beat Belgium at the long-ball game so we have to play to our strengths by moving the ball quickly and attacking down the flanks,' he added.

Inamoto said the key to beating Belgium would be to score an early goal. But that task could prove to be difficult on recent form. Japan have scored just twice from open play in their last four matches, and one of those was an own goal.

MASSIVE GAME

'Tuesday is a massive game. We will have to put pressure on them from the start and hopefully pinch a goal early on, like we did against Italy,' he said, referring to their 1-1 draw at the same venue in November.

Inamoto admitted to feeling some pre-tournament nerves after watching World Cup news on television over the past week.

'Watching the TV, you feel a bit of pressure but there is a relaxed atmosphere at the camp. We are playing at home so it will be a special World Cup. We don't need any extra motivation.'

Asked about his future at Arsenal, Inamoto insisted he wanted to stay at Highbury but not if it meant spending another season in the reserves.

'If there is no change next season, then I will have to think about what's best for me,' he said. 'The biggest drawback of not playing regularly is that you lose match sharpness.'

Inamoto quickly added, however, that he has worked himself back into shape after playing in Japan's last six matches, including the 1-1 draw with Sweden in Tokyo on Saturday.

'I have been training with great players every day at Arsenal, so my confidence level is high,' he said. 'We had a hard practice yesterday, but I've got no injury worries and I am ready to get on with the job.'

After playing Belgium, Japan face Russia in Yokohama on June 9 and complete their group matches against Tunisia in Osaka on June 14 in the tournament being co-hosted with South Korea.

Meanwhile, defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto became the latest injury concern as the World Cup co-hosts beat a local university side 3-1 in a warm-up for the finals.

The Gamba Osaka player hurt his nose in a collision with an opposing forward in the 70-minute match played behind closed doors at Iwata Stadium and was taken to a local hospital as a "precautionary measure", according to team officials.

Feyenoord midfielder Shinji Ono, who joined the Japan squad on Wednesday night after an appendicitis scare, warmed up with the rest of the players but took no part in the game on Thursday.

Strikers Akinori Nishizawa and Masashi Nakayama scored first-half goals and Arsenal midfielder Junichi Inamoto was on target after the break. Japan play Belgium in Saitama on Tuesday.

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Blow For Japan As Miyamoto Breaks Nose
Japan - Belgium | News Archive

05/31/2002. Japan have been dealt a blow with the news that Tsuneyasu Miyamoto has broken his nose during a warm-up match yesterday.

The Gamba Osaka defender could now miss their first match against Belgium on June 4, although Japan are hopeful he will return in time.

Team spokesman Hideki Kato said: "His nose is broken but it doesn't mean he can't train. He will stick to some light training on his own for the next couple of days and then rejoin the rest of the team around June 2."

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World Cup Preview: Japan-Belgium
Japan - Belgium | News Archive

Ono & Nakata: instrumental to Japan's chances (Allsport)
06/03/2002. Belgium will again be content to progress to the next round in this 6th consecutive World Cup. It is a sort of record, as no country achieved this before through qualification only, without hosting the competition or defending the trophy. This accomplishment must be followed, in every Rode Duivel's mind, by a good performance in Korea/Japan.

Coach Robert Waseige will however have to put up with a number of annoying forfeitures. This will have consequences on his tactical formation, as Belgium should now go for a more daring 3-5-2 than the usual 4-5-1 prised by the Liege-born entraîneur. Also, Belgium are aware that this match with Japan is of crucial importance. The group's three main teams (Belgium, Japan and Russia) seem to be on the same level and will have therefore to make a difference in direct confrontations to qualify for the next round.

Restless Japan will be extremely nervous to go into the World Cup in front of their own public. Touted by some as the World Cup's possible surprise team, the Nippon team does not seem to have had the right approach, with mystery and controversy rife in these past few days. It all started with the incommunicado procedures about Ono's physical conditions. The Feyenoord midfielder spent a couple of days in hospital with a more serious disease than the mere "bellyache" described by Japanese officials.

And there is Philippe Troussier... How can you expect the team to be at peace with itself behind the blanket of secrecy laid by the French coach? "No comment" was Troussier's answer when it came to publish the squad days before the May 26 deadline. Needless to say he refused to unveil his starting lineup against the Rode Duivels... It makes you wonder why the information-savvy Japanese do not like him...

TEAM NEWS

Belgium are in the middle of a serious defensive crisis with two key players out. Glen De Boeck still has some chances to make it, while Nico Van Kerckhoven could be sidelined for the rest of the competition due to a suspected ligament injury. Veterans Danny Boffin and Derby's Branko Strupar are both fit after shaking off minor injuries. Wesley Sonck is almost sure to start upfront, with the support of fit-again Marc Wilmots and Gert Verheyen acting on the right wing. The possible three-man defence should be composed of Jacky Peeters, Timmy Simons and Glen De Boeck (or Eric Deflandre). Despite reports stating Waseige opting for veteran Van Meir occupuying a central position, those three should get the nod. A flatback four with Bart Goor in the left back position with the three man mentioned above is not to be ruled out.

Japan have kept their formation under wraps to put up a surprise attack - one of the country's specialty. However things look pretty clear for Troussier, who is almost certain to do without Ono and Miyamoto, who broke his nose in training. Japan's biggest problem will be getting the goals, with not many candidates to satisfy their needs up front.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Belgium: De Vlieger; Deflandre, De Boeck, Peeters, Goor; Simons, Vanderhaeghe, Walem, Verheyen, Wilmots; Sonck

Japa: to be announced

WHO'S HOT

Belgium: Marc Wilmots - His recent injury should not prevent the industrious Schalke attacking midfielder from shining on the World stage one last time. He even has the chance to become his country's top goalscorer ever if he hits five during the WC before going in international retirement.

Japan: Hidetoshi Nakata - Who else? Even though they were about to snub him after a second successive disappointing season in Serie A, Japan still need Nakata like motorists need gas. He is the only one among Troussier's men to influence a game single-handedly.

WHO'S NOT

Belgium: Eric Van Meir - It makes you wonder why Robert Waseige brought him to the Belgium squad if he is - again - short of condition. More a liability to Belgium than anything else.

Japan: Shinji Ono - Just a bellyache? Ask the doc to know where to stand about the Feyenoorder. Japan could be missing him much in midfield where Belgium look set to impose a strong physical challenge.

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gamate kurasai!!!!!!!!!
 

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World Cup Preview: Japan-Russia
Japan - Russia | News Archive

Nakata and Ono are expected to rise to the occasion (Allsport)
06/08/2002. BACKGROUND

Japan's World Cup campaign faces another European test as they are set to battle Russia on Sunday afternoon. The co-hosts sent mixed signals in their World Cup opener against Belgium that ended in a 2-2 draw. Until Sukuki's equalizer, that was born out of a huge blunder on behalf of the Belgian defense, Japan looked confused and extremely weak in every sector of the pitch. But the lucky equalizer allowed the side coached by Philippe Troussier to show their other face, made of up enormous heart and a good level of technical play. This time Japan must try to show this façade for more than twenty minutes of the match, as Russia appear to be an even tougher side compared to the injury-torn Belgians. That is if one doesn't include the Tunisia match in this evaluation?br>
Oleg Romantsev's team did not convince at all during their 2-0 win against the nervous North African World Cup debutants. After a dismal first half, they took the lead thanks to an invention by Yegor Titov, and not surely through a very convincing game pattern. Reports from the Eastern European state indicate that spirits aren't that high in the Russian squad. The Russian media's frequent attacks directed towards coach Romantsev are greatly hurting the teams confidence. But a win against Japan would immediately silence the team's critics, as it would allow Group B's first placed team to book their ticket to the second round a game in advance.

TEAM NEWS

Troussier is expected to field the same side that snatched a 2-2 draw against Belgium. This means Ono, who played a horrific opening match, Hidetoshi Nakata, and new sensastion Junichi Inamoto will all be present on the five man midfield line. Some changes are instead expected in the Russian lineup. Romantsev told reporters he wasn't at all happy with his team's performance against Tunisia, and hitman Vladimir Beschastnykh might fall victim to his coach's wrath. Injured team leader Alexander Mostovoi will perform a fitness test before the match, but he will probably be rested again in favour of Marat Izmailov.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Japan (3-5-2): Seigo Narazaki; Naoki Matsuda, Ryuzo Morioka, Koji Nakata; -Daisuke Ichikawa, Junichi Inamoto, Kazuyuki Toda, Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono; Takayuki Suzuki, Atsushi Yanagisawa

Russia (3-5-2): Ruslan Nigmatullin; Yuri Kovtun, Yuri Nikiforov, Viktor Onopko; Andrei Solomatin, Valery Karpin, Yegor Titov, Marat Izmailov, Dmitry Kokhlov; Vladimir Beschastnykh ( Dmitry Sychev), Ruslan Pimenov
FORM GUIDE

Japan (FIFA Ranking 32)

Japan-Belgium: 2-2 Overall Team Performance: 6/10

Russia (FIFA Ranking 27)

Russia-Tunisa: 2-0 Overall Team Performance: 5,5/10

WHO'S HOT

Inamoto (Japan)- The relatively unknown Arsenal midfielder made global headlines after his team's opening draw. He carried the entire midfield on his shoulders, and also scored a Mardaona-like the goal that was unfairly disallowed.

Titov (Russia)-His 20 meter blast that handed Russia the lead against Tunisia saved his team from disaster.

WHO'S NOT

Japan stars Ono and Nakata were very disappointing against Belgium. The Feyenoord player was so inexistent that Troussier took him off the pitch after only 60 mintues, while the Parma midfielder failed to do anything that could live up to his superstar status. The former AS Roma player will especially need to perform some magic, as only in this manner will he prove there isn't an underground row going on between him and his French coach.

Ismailov-Mostovoi's replacement did not make his mark in the Tunisia match, and this was a major reason why the Russian game pattern was slow and predictable. His past year at Locomotiv demonstrated he has the talent to do much better.

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS

These two teams never met before in official matches.

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Japan played amazing today and Inamoto is terrific. I'm behind you guys, now thrash Tunisia please! :star::strong:
 

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World Cup Group H ¡V 9/6/02 (12.30pm BST)
Japan 1 - 0 Russia
Inamoto 51 (J)

Yokohama (Japan)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Japan take the top of Group H thanks to their first ever World Cup Finals victory, a thoroughly entertaining affair.
This tie was always going to be the crunch match between the two favourites to go through in this group.

Russia had the upper hand ahead of kick-off thanks to their 2-0 win against Tunisia, but Japan could count on the passionate home crowd in Yokohama.

It was a fast-paced and open encounter from the start as Japan had the better of the early play, but Russia were dangerous from distance with Izmailov.

The home side poured all over the Russian defence and saw their superstar Hidetoshi Nakata fired two great opportunities over the bar as the frenetic pace showed no signs of slowing.

Narazaki bravely threw himself onto Pimenov's feet as the Russian forward broke the offside trap. However, Russia's penalty appeals were waved away when Toda dragged back Viktor Onopko.

The deadlock was finally broken at the dawn of the second period when Arsenal benchwarmer Inamoto took the defence by surprise and blasted into the roof of the net from close range.

Arsenal have let go of the midfielder and Atalanta are showing interest in signing Inamoto for next season, although PSV Eindhoven are also in the running.

Russia's best chance of the game fell to substitute Beschastnykh just moments after he stepped onto the field, but after waltzing round the 'keeper he incredibly fired onto the sidenetting of an open goal.

Nakata attempted one of his trademark ballistic efforts when he unleashed a powerful drive from 25 metres that cannoned off the crossbar.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Japan: Narazaki; Matsuda, Miyamoto, K Nakata; Myojin, Inamoto (Fukunishi 85), Toda, H Nakata, Ono (Hattori 75); Suzuki (Nakayama 71), Yanagisawa

Russia: Nigmatullin; Kovtun, Nikiforov, Onopko; Solomatin, Karpin, Titov, Smertin (Beschastnykh 57), Semshov; Izmailov (Khklov 52), Pimenov (Sychev 46)

Ref: Merk (Ger)

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Japan-Russia 1-0: Japan Player Ratings
Japan - Russia | News Archive

06/09/2002. Narazaki 6.5
Matsuda 6.5
Miyamoto 7
K. Nakata 6.5
Myojin 6
Inamoto 7.5 (Fukunishi n.e.)
Toda 6
H. Nakata 7
Ono 6 (Hattori n.e.)
Suzuki 6 (Nakayama n.e.)
Yanagisawa 6

The best: Inamoto. The great match he played against Belgium was not a flash in the pan. It was another superb outing for the talented midfielder, not only for the goal

The worst: al of Troussier's men gave their best in order to grab this historical win

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Thank you very much for all the nice words you gave to Japan national team! I think the chance of Japan winning top of the group H is fairly probable, without having to face up to very competitive side, Brazil. For my part a little bit of luck worked in the last night's match, since the ref seemed to have overlooked Toda's (red-haired mohican) foul (getting down a Russian player on the ground from behind and cleared the ball) in the first half. Overall Japanese players worked fairly well, but luck was needed for the naive team. Mostovoy's absence might also be a bad luck for the Russian side.

Korea vs Poland match was very exciting, I enjoyed it very much. The most amazing thing was roaring spectator, red, red, red, everywhere. Thanks to that support, Korea overpowered Polland in every respect. Polland players gave away the ball cheaply many, many times. It was absolutely Korea's game. I was totally amazed by Korea's progress. I knew Hwan Song-hon, Yu Sun-chul, Park Ji-sung playing in J-league, they are very good players. Also surprized by so many talented youngsters, like Li Chong-su ( funny face!), Cha Bong-gun's son (this guy's face is also funny!), Sol Gi-hyon. There must be promising future in store for Korean soccer!

Saudi Arabia's 0-7 defeat was awful, at that time I thougt other football federations might demand decreasing of Asia's spot, but after Korea and Japan's victory against European sides, I'm relieved. Existing 3-4 seats may be likely next time.

Nippon wo oenn ****e kurete arigato!
 

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World Cup Preview: Tunisia V Japan
Tunisia - Japan | News Archive

06/13/2002. BACKGROUND

Tunisia's well deserved point against Belgium has kept their World Cup alive going into the final match of Group H against co-hosts Japan. Even the most ardent of fans of the North African Nation would probably have assumed their World Cup would have been over by the time they faced Japan after a nightmare year full of disappointment and upheaval. However, Tunisia have impressed considerably and really deserve more than the one point they have to show for their troubles.

Tunisia must beat Japan to stand any chance of qualifying, and if the other game in the Group, Russia Vs. Belgium, is drawn qualification will come down to goal difference. The sheer fact that Tunisia can contemplate qualifying is a remarkable achievement for a nation that had been written off by their press, former players and manager. A failed drug test, the shock resignation of their captain and inspirational goalkeeper added with a poor run of form gave Tunisia little hope of making an impact in the Far East. However, they have shown confidence and one or two stars may even be emerging from a team of no-hoppers.

Japan have a fantastically passionate support behind them and not only that they have a huge amount of commitment and talent to boot. The majority of the footballing World wouldn't have given Japan much of a chance to succeed at this World Cup, but they have a great chance to win their group and then who knows how far they can go?

They opened their campaign with their first point at a World Cup with a 2-2 draw with Belgium, during which they were robbed a winner from Inamoto in the last few minutes. They followed that with their first ever win, a 1-0 victory against Russia that sparked delirium on the streets of Japan. At least a point against Tunisia will seal their passage in the last 16 and prevent them from becoming the first home nation to be eliminated in the first round. A victory will ensure that they can't face on-fire Brazil in the second round, but a tie with Turkey would beckon.

TEAM NEWS

Tunisia - To Follow

Japan's boss Philippe Troussier has reported that all of his players are "100% fit" for their showdown with Tunisia.

PROBABLY LINE UPS

Tunisia - To Follow

Japan (3-5-2): Seigo Narazaki; Naoki Matsuda, Ryuzo Morioka, Koji Nakata; Daisuke Ichikawa, Junichi Inamoto, Kazuyuki Toda, Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono; Takayuki Suzuki, Atsushi Yanagisawa.

WHO IS HOT

Tunisia - Slim Benachour: Tunisia's youngest player has shot to fame on the basis of his two performances at this World Cup and has been linked with a move to England as a result, although his dream move to Manchester United may be a little optimistic. Benachour is diminutive, but extremely nifty on the ball and more than capable of unlocking defences with his tricks and turns.

Japan - Juninchi Inamoto: The midfielder is one of the stars of the tournament so far. It appears he was signed by Arsenal last year purely to bring in money from merchandising, as the Gunners had little or no intention of actually playing him in the Premiership last season. However, they may now be realising that they had a supremely talented player on their hands, the only problem is that he looks set to be released from Highbury.

WHO IS NOT

Tunisia - Ali Boumnijel: The inexperienced goalkeeper was at fault for Russia's opener in their first match and he didn't fill me with any more confidence against Belgium.

Japan - Shinji Ono: The Feyenoord midfielder is one of the so-called stars of Japan's team. However, he has been largely ineffective and was substituted in both of their matches. Prior to the World Cup there were suggestions that he was struggling with fitness and that may be the cause.

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS

Japan have met Tunisia once before, in a friendly six years ago, and were 1-0 winners.

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PROFILE Inamoto loses ego to shine on big stage

Thursday 13th June 2002

The competition for attention among Japan's midfielders is hotting up.

While long-term top dog Hidetoshi Nakata's World Cup tournament has been a slow burner and Feyenoord's Shinji Ono has struggled to flourish after injury, another player has fast-tracked his way to the top of the popularity stakes with Man of the Match performances in his side's first two matches.

All this despite not having played a single league game last season.

It would be difficult for someone living in England to think of Junichi Inamoto as a man with an ego problem. This is, after all, a player who arrived in England last summer and failed to break into Arsenal's Premiership line-up even when they were at the height of a season-long injury crisis.

An Englishman a bit more in tune with Japanese football who can tell a slightly different story is Steve Perryman. The former Tottenham Hotspur captain has been in Japan's J-League as a coach for some time now, first with Shimizu S-Pulse and now with Kashiwa Reysol.

And Perryman claimed that Inamoto suffered from the superiority complex that being a big fish in a little pool can often foist upon a footballer. A move to one of the biggest club sides in Britain is sure to knock a little bit of arrogance out of even the most cocksure of overseas player.

Having coached both S-Pulse and Reysol against Inamoto's former club Gamba Osaka, and played over 600 times for Arsenal's fierce rivals Spurs, Perryman is well placed to understand the culture shock the Japan international will have experienced.

"I've seen a lot of him at club level over here [in Japan] and I thought he was a little bit of a poser," Perryman told onefootball.com. "Maybe the period in England has knocked his ego down a bit but lifted up his game. He is not so showy now and is actually doing something that affects the result of the game."

Of that there can be no doubt, as Inamoto has scored his second and third international goals during this World Cup. The first came after a marauding run from deep to help claim a point against Belgium. The second, even more memorably, secured Japan's first ever win in the World Cup finals in a 1-0 victory over Russia.

Inamoto's goal threat has come as a surprise to reporters in England who originally touted the 22-year-old as a holding midfielder to cover for Patrick Vieira when he initially moved to England. Perryman believes Inamoto is better suited to a role that gives him licence to get up and down the pitch in equal measure. That is exactly what Japan coach Philippe Troussier has allowed him to do and the Frenchman is now reaping the rewards.

"I think he was sold or allegedly sold to England as a defensive midfielder and I never saw him like that," said Perryman. "I always thought that if you have three midfield players, one as your out-and-out defender, one as your out-and-out attacker and one that does both, then I would always put him in the middle of those three.

"He has been able to use his ability to get forward, for whatever reason, in the Japan national team. How he's used at Arsenal I don't know, but he has gone a little a bit away from his strengths."

Inamoto's future at club level has been a point of great debate. Reports on Monday had suggested that Arsenal had placed the player on the transfer list. It also transpired that the Gunners had never actually signed Inamoto in a suggested £4 million deal last year but had, in fact, taken the player on loan for the season with a view to a permanent deal. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has since said that he has still to make up his mind on whether he will offer the player a contract.

Inamoto cannot have done any more so far in this tournament to convince Wenger of his worth to the Double winners for next season. The midfielder played no part in either Arsenal's successful Premiership or FA Cup campaigns in 2001-02.

But he nevertheless has no regrets about moving to north London. "Throughout the year, I played with many of the world's great players. I have built up confidence playing against great players," Inamoto said. "It's important for Japanese players to play outside the country."

If Wenger decides to jettison Inamoto, there will be no shortage of takers for his services on the back of such spirited displays in the World Cup. PSV Eindhoven and Atalanta have both declared an interest, but are awaiting further developments from Highbury before making a formal move.

Perryman conceded that Inamoto will, in all likelihood, not make the grade at Arsenal, though he feels his move could turn out to be a bit nearer to London than Holland or Italy.

"Training around those fantastic players [at Arsenal] and the success that they have had must have been like someone giving him a lesson everyday," Perryman added.

"I just think Inamoto could have picked, if not a better club, then a better situation to go to and I still think he will probably need to do that. What he is doing at the World Cup now is obviously going to give him more options to go to a place where he will get more regular first team football. If he goes to, say, Birmingham, who have just come up [to the Premiership] or another team like that, then he will do well, no doubt."

Japan's final Group H match against Tunisia will be a particularly special occasion for Inamoto, coming as it does in his hometown of Osaka. Having taken four points from the post-tournament group favourites Belgium and Russia, Inamoto knows his side would be foolish to slip up now with a second round spot there for the taking.

"I think this is a rare and important tournament for Japan, for us to show the rest of the world our brand of football," he said. "The players are motivated because we all know that the World Cup might never be held in Japan again and we may have changed history with the two games we had.

"But if we drop the next one [against Tunisia] and don't advance, we'll have to head back to the drawing board. We have to move on from here."

Inamoto's final sentiments may apply to his own club career too, but he won't now be short of offers whatever happens in Osaka.

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Japanese Player Ratings vs. Tunisia (2-0)
News Archive

06/14/2002. Narazaki 6.5

Matsuda 6

Miyamoto 6.5(Ichikawa 45, 6.5)

K.Nakata 6.5

Myojin 6

Toda 7

Ono 6.5

H.Nakata 6.5

Suzuki 6

Yanagisawa 6(Morishima 45, 7)

THE BEST: Toda, the other Japanese defensive midfielder alongside of Inamoto, is one of the biggest reasons for this team�fs success. Without him, Inamoto couldn�ft have performed as well. He was starting point for many chances and also very effective in defense.

THE WORST: No players from this team to be critiscized today. Even Troussier did fine job substituting effectively.

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World Cup 2nd Round Preview: Japan-Turkey
Japan - Turkey | News Archive

06/17/2002. BACKGROUND

Japan will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the North Korea side of '66 by becoming only the second Asian team to ever qualify for the quarterfinals of the World Cup with a win over Turkey on Monday.

The euphoria in Japan has hardly subsided since their famous 2-0 win over Tunisia confirmed their place amongst the final second and even primeminister Koizumi admitted to getting teary-eyed when Nakata's game-killing goal effectively sealed the deal on a remarkable achievement.

It is by no fluke that Japan have made it to the second round, as Nakata, Inamoto, Miyamoto and the boys have commanded the world's respect with their near-seamless marriage of technique and tenacity. The pressure on the Japanese players has not lifted in the least, however, as their giant strides have been matched by their South Korean counterparts. Despite having accomplished their pre-tournament objective of making it past the group stage, a dark cloud could forever hang over everything they have achieved thus far, if they fail to better - or at least equal - the performance of their co-hosts and bitter regional rivals.

Nevertheless, coach Philippe Troussier is confident of his side's chances. "We go into the Turkey match with a lot of self-assurance, we don't have suspensions, and we're creating a dynamic, a momentum," said the French-born former South Africa coach. It's been a great journey for us. We are not tired, we are well in the hunt, we are sure of ourselves and we are ready for the next match. We will also have an extra man than the Turks in the shape of the crowd, whose amazing support has helped us immeasurably."

Turkey have, quite literally, not nearly enjoyed as smooth a ride into the second round as their opponents on Monday, as a bitter-sweet fortnight of controversy, lamentations, celebrations and internal squabbling was rounded off by a shared near-death experience in the form of a nightmare plane ride to their new World Cup base. The Turkish team suffered the emotional trauma of what some claim to be a minute-long drop from the sky, while flying to Sendai in stormy conditions. Although badly shaken ?excuse the pun - none of the players were physically injured as the result of the extreme turbulence, though several of the taller team members were reported to have bumped their heads fairly hard against the plane's ceiling.

The stylish Turks have at times played some of the best football in the tournament, but have shown themselves to be susceptible to lapses of concentration ?or is it nerves? ?whilst defending during the a latter stages of a tight game. Twice, Senol Gumes' side contrived to give up a costly goal around the 85 minute mark, which raises serious questions about their ability to cope with high-pressure situations. So far they have passed, but not with flying colours.

Despite the glitches and off the field distractions ?the most bothersome of which was rumours of an alleged rift between Hakan Sukur and his teammates ?coach Gumes is optimistic of his team's chances against Japan.

"We've had our rough moments so far but there is always one team who has those and gets very close to the final and I think we could be the one this time round," he said. "I think if we play like we did for parts of the Brazilian match then we will have every chance of going through.

LATEST TEAM NEWS

Troussier has no injury or suspension worries for what is undoubtedly the biggest match in Japan's footballing history and is expected to opt for the same starting XI who successfully secured progression against Tunisia. Gunes, on the other hand, will regret the fact that key midfielder Emre Belozoglu and defender Emre Asik both picked up one-match bans in the win against China. At least it looks like he can count on Okan Buruk to fill in for the suspended Inter Milan starlet, as he seems fully recovered from the thigh strain that has prevented him from participating in the group stage of the tournament. There is further positive injury news in that Muzzy Izzet is also available for selection following a long-standing injury, while star striker Hakan Sukur and goalkeeper Rustu Recber appear to have fully shaken off knocks they picked up against China.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Japan: Narazaki, Matsuda Morioka, Koji Nakata, Myojin, Toda, Hidetoshi Nakata, Inamoto, Ono, Yanagisawa, Suzuki.

Turkey: Rustu, Fatih, Alpay, Bulent, Hakan Unsal, Nihat, Tugay, Umit Davala, Basturk, Sas, Hakan Sukur.

ROAD TO THE SECOND ROUND

Japan finished top of Group H and advanced to the second round courtesy of a 2-2 tie with Belgium, a 1-0 win over Russia and a 2-0 defeat of Tunisia.

Turkey were runners-up in Group C and progress to the second round by way of a 3-0 win over China, a 1-1 tie against Costa Rica and despite a 2-1 loss to Brazil.

WHO'S HOT

Hasan Sas: The chrome-domed Galatasaray star has been one of the breakout players of the tournament. His pair of goals and ability to wreck havoc among opposing defenses with his mesmeric runs have attracted the interest of several of the top clubs around Europe. Turkish football expert Fatih Dogan explained Sas' importance to the national team: "Knowing that Sukur was always going to be closely marked, Gunes is using Hasan as a hidden weapon behind the striker. It worked against Brazil and China...he's fast and unpredictable, that's what causes opponents problems."

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto: While it is typically the attacking players that get all the plaudits, it is nice to see that the Japanese fans and media alike have recognized the invaluable contribution of the savvy Gamba Osaka defender, who is instantly identifiable due to batmanesque mask. His broken nose may be vulnerable but his defending isn't, and it is no coincidence that Japan have only conceded one goal since he returned to the lineup in the 72nd minute of their opening draw against Belgium.

WHO'S NOT

Hakan Sukur: The towering Parma striker has failed to make an impact at the tournament thus far and has looked a pale shade of the player who scored goals for fun during his Galatasaray days. 65 million Turks will be praying that he rediscovers his golden touch, as an on-form Sukur would improve their chances of lifting the most coveted of cups dramatically.

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS

Turkey and Japan have only met once in their history, the outcome of that being a 1-0 win for the Japanese in June, 1997.

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Japan Player Ratings Vs. Turkey (0-1)
Japan - Turkey | News Archive

06/18/2002. Narazaki: 6
Matsuda: 6
Miyamoto: 6.5
Koji Nakata: 6
Ono: 5.5
Myojin: 6
Toda: 6.5
Inamoto: 6
Nakata: 6.5
Alex: 7
Nishizawa: 6

Subs:

Suzuki (On for Alex 46) 6.5
Ichikawa (On for Inamoto 46) 6
Morishima (On for Ichikawa 86) No Rating

BEST: Japan's most creative outlet in the first half was Brazilian born Alex, but Troussier elected to replace him at half-time and the World Cup co-hosts lacked inspiration in the second half. Alex's freekick in the first half that struck the corner of post and bar was the closest his side came to beating Rustu.

WORST: Ono was a long way from his best today, as cross after cross failed to pick out a team-mate, while he also rarely beat Turkish players. The Feyenoord player also strangely left his near post position just seconds before Turkey scored from a corner.

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World Cup Second Round ¡V 18/6/02
Japan 0-1 Turkey
Umit Davala 12

Miyagi (Japan)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Turkey have ended Japan¡¦s World Cup ambitions with a 1-0 win which sees them set up a quarter-final date with Senegal. An early goal from former Milan man Umit Davala proved to be the winner as his side progress to the last 8 for the first time ever.

Turkey took an early grip of the game with a 12th minute goal. A corner was swung in from the right and Umit Davala rose freely to head the ball past Narazaki to give his side the lead in rainy Miyagi.

Japan¡¦s first chance fell to Alex. The Brazilian-born star was played in by Nishizawa, but his angled drive was comfortable for Rustu who was well behind it. But it was Turkey that had two more decent chances soon after.

Sukur tried his luck with a chip before Hakan Sas wasted a wonderful chance when while in front of goal his powerful drive ended high and wide of the target. Japan were holding on to the ball well but failed to really penetrate.

Their best chance of the first half fell for Alex again just before the interval. Japan were handed a central free-kick right on the edge of the box. Alex guided his shot over the wall but it unfortunately struck the angle between post and bar.

Desperate to get back into the game, Japan did up the tempo after the half-time oranges.

Nakata threatened on 52 minutes when his shot got a slight deflection but failed to cause real concern for Rustu. The Turkish No 1 was alert to the situation again when he later held onto a Nishizawa header.

The co-hosts were leaving space at the back but Turkey never really took advantage of that. Sas should have done better on the hour but his low shot was dealt with, before Basturk saw his long range effort finish just wide of the upright.

There was no way back for Japan and the co-hosts were, sadly for the tournament, eliminated.


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Japan: Narazaki; Matsuda, Miyamoto, K Nakata, Myojin, Inamoto (Ichikawa 46, Morishima 85), H Nakata, Toda, Ono, Alex (Suzuki 46), Nishizawa

Turkey: Rustu; Akyel, Korkmaz, Alpay, Unsal, Umit Davala (Nihat 74), Tugay, Basturk (Mansiz 90), Ergun, Sas (Tayfur 85), Sukur

Ref: Collina (Ita)

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